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Robin Hood is down to his last three arrows. THIS IS WHEN PRINCE JOHN AND THE SHERIFF SHOULD FEAR HIM MOST. – DC Special #12

January 18, 2012

Fair Warning: The Viking Prince, the Silent Knight (ha…) and the Golden Gladiator will not be making appearances in this post. You may commence with the wailing and gnashing of teeth. Be consoled that I was sorely tempted to delve into one of this oversized comic’s three Viking Prince reprints, which featured superb Joe Kubert art from the late 1950s. But I’ve spent time in the past worshipping at that Kubertian altar, and, being a good Anglo-Saxon, I couldn’t pass up a chance to yack about the great hero of my breed, that forest-dwelling, money-bag stealing maid-masher known to us all as Robin Hood. WAIT YOUR TURN, NORDICS.

Robin, the first soak the rich Occupier — though he used quiver-based bad-assery for his “Occupy Nottingham” movement, instead of the tents, slogans and poor sanitation favored by our contemporaries — had a nice (if brief) run in comics back in the day. I’m not sure when the last good Robin Hood comic was. I’m not even sure when the last passable adaptation of his semi-historical life was produced in ANY medium. Was the Russel Crowe/Ridley Scott movie at all good? I confess to having been Hood-weaned on the embarrassing Kevin Costner/Morgan Freeman crapfest from the ’90s (which wasn’t rescued by Alan Rickman’s evil-dripping Sheriff) — Errol Flynn did not exist in this dojo. There was the Mel Brooks satire, Men in Tights, but that wasn’t all that stellar either. Maybe the last good Robin Hood flick was that Disney movie where he was a fox. Robin Hood and Little John walkin’ through the forest…

Whatever his later fictional (mis)fortunes, Robin was a mainstay in the very early Brave and the Bold comics, a title that was perfectly suited to his medieval derring-do. The story reprinted here (Script: Bob Haney/Art: Russ Heath) comes from TBatB #9. I like it. It’s short. It’s fun. It can fulfill whatever Robin Hood hankering you might have. IT WILL PLUNGE AN ARROW RIGHT THROUGH YOUR HEART OH WAIT THAT’S CUPID.

It all starts when an itinerant hawker of memorabilia draws the attention of the nefarious Prince John:

I’m sure if Todd McFarlane was alive back in those days, he would have been slobbering all over those arrows just like he did over his (tainted — HA) home run balls. And do you like the “AUCTION FOR YE CHARITY” sign? Just because you put a YE in a phrase doesn’t necessarily make it Middle Ages-friendly, folks. Lessons for life.

Our traveling salesman begins spinning his yarn about how Robin Hood managed to 1) escape a host of enemies, 2) free his Merry Men, and 3) rescue Maid Marian, all with the use of only three arrows. This gets you curious, right? About how he managed such frugal archery, right? Maybe not. It did me.

To defeat the attacking horde, Robin opts for a variant on the “Moses and God drowning Rameses” gambit:

The Sheriff’s men are washed away and so is Robin, but he’s not chopped down by mounted foes. Just a little wet –that’s what one calls a damn good bargain. And he still has two arrows. He has not yet begun to fight.

Next up is rescuing his men, who are being held in a heavily guarded house. The riddle to this one is how Robin made smoke go down a chimney. Stumped? After revelling in the befuddled faces of his rapt audience, the storyteller clues them (and us) in:

The smokey guards are no match for his bunghole arrow of doom and HEY WAIT A MINUTE HE HAS A SWORD. This sort of takes away from his great three-arrow achievement, but I suppose it’s grandfathered in with the rest of his outlaw raiment. Like the feather.

Last up is pulling Marian out of a castle tower, one surrounded by snarling beasts. The riddle here is how Robin made a whole castle surrender. A bit of rope and he’s almost done:

He frees the wild boars which chase the guards away (this is a bit like the first arrow solution) and then the rest is child’s play. I must admit, a boar-filled moat is a new one for me. No alligators? Sharks with laser beams? Just plain water?

And there’s your tale. Like all royalty, Prince John is a prick with a limited imagination, so he cries shenanigans on this whole thing, and then MY GOD, THE AUCTIONEER WAS REALLY ROBIN HOOD ALL ALONG:

They’re using arrows against him. Will they never learn that all arrow’s are his friends and respond to his commands? It’s a bit like attacking Aquaman with a school of fish, no?

In a broader observation, Robin Hood can at times come across as a bit of a taunting prick. A little bit of this can be glimpsed in these last panels. He laughs and teases his way into the protective shroud of Sherwood Forest, and Prince John is left to fume and wag his mailed fist. The sequence could be subtitled with a simple NYAH NYAH. Whatever Robin’s virtues, I’d say that he sometimes lacks the cognizance to know when to quit rubbing it in, like Shazzang in that old TV Funhouse skit. If he shot the Sheriff in the ass with an arrow, he’d then moon him just to show that his own cheeks were still pristine and UN-arrowed.

You know what? Now that I think of it, maybe his three arrow exploits were completely made up. Résumé padding. Propoganda. So he might be a bit of a liar too on top of the showboating. Maybe it’s more about being a dick and less about the robbing the rich to give to the poor stuff. Maybe there’s a touch of Walter White in him. Something for us to mull.

Back to the story at hand. As I stated, it isn’t much, but it’s a brief, pleasant diversion, and the art, if not Kubertian, invests Robin with the roguish charm that we’ve come to expect — if not outright demand — of the character. The whole affair is far superior to watching Costner muddle through Price of Thieves with an American accent, and surpassing that low standard is all that my generation could possibly ask. HUZZAH.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Chris permalink
    January 19, 2012 12:30 pm

    The Errol Flynn version really is the best film Robin Hood, after of course the cartoon animal one. But “Robin and Marian” from the 70s, with Sean Connery as old Robin and Audrey Hepburn as old Marian is pretty good, especially the final fight scene.

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